Milton Snavely Hershey (1857-1945) was an American candy manufacturer, the founder of the Hershey Company, Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company (previously known as "Hershey Estates"), the company town of Hershey, Pennsylvania, and the Hershey Industrial School (renamed in 1951 as the Milton Hershey School). He was a noted philanthropist, entrepreneur, and believed in hard work, education, and helping one's fellow man.
Milton was born in Derry Township, Pennsylvania on September 13, 1857 to Henry and Fannie Hershey, at the Hershey Homestead which his grandfather had built of quarried limestone. The family were Mennonite.
His father, Henry Hershey, moved the family often, which resulted in Milton attending several one room schools but never finishing above the fifth grade. Milton was apprenticed to a small newspaper, but did not like it. He was fired after dropping a tray of type. His parents then apprenticed him to a candymaker in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
After learning candymaking skills, Milton began his own businesses in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New York City, Chicago, Illinois, and failed each time. Finally, Milton returned to Lancaster broke and exhausted. There he eventually found funds and began to make caramels and succeeded. He started to make chocolate as well, and in 1900 Milton sold the caramel business for US$1 million. He then chose to return to Derry Township to construct a chocolate factory and a town. In 1898, Milton married Catherine ("Kitty") Sweeney of New York City.
In 1909, Mr. Hershey and his wife founded the Hershey Industrial School for orphan boys. After Kitty died, in 1916 Mr. Hershey quietly created a trust for the School and donated US$60 million to fund the School in perpetuity.
Mr. Hershey traveled extensively for new ideas and business opportunities. He traveled to Cuba in 1916 and purchased large sugar plantations, building a town there called Central Hershey, Cuba. He built sugar mills, the Hershey Cuban Railroad, a school, golf course, and other amenities. He also built an orphanage there, the Cuban Orphan School. Mr. Hershey was appreciated by the Cubans for his generosity and care for the people. In 1933, Cuban President Machado at the Presidential Palace in Havana awarded him with the greatest honor that Cuba could bestow, the Grand Cross of the National Order of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes.
During the Great Depression, Mr. Hershey decided to create jobs as well as monumental buildings. Hiring 600 men, he built the Hershey Community Building (including the magnificent Hershey Community Theater), Hershey Sports Arena, Hershey Stadium, Hotel Hershey, Hershey Industrial School's Junior-Senior High School, and a new office for his chocolate factory.
Mr. Hershey continued to monitor his company, town, and schools until his death at age 88 in 1945. His legacy continues through the town, the companies, and the Milton Hershey School, where over 1700 children receive a home environment, education, health care, and other needs at no cost.